China Set to Launch Chang'e-6 Mission to Collect Samples from Moon's Far Side

China's Chang'e-6 mission to the far side of the moon marks a critical milestone in its lunar exploration program, laying the groundwork for future crewed missions and a permanent lunar base by 2030, rivaling NASA's Artemis program.

Nitish Verma
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China Set to Launch Chang'e-6 Mission to Collect Samples from Moon's Far Side

China Set to Launch Chang'e-6 Mission to Collect Samples from Moon's Far Side

China is prepared to launch the Chang'e-6 robotic spacecraft in the coming days on a pioneering mission to collect soil and rock samples from the far side of the moon. This mission marks the first of three technically demanding lunar expeditions that will lay the groundwork for China's ambitious goal of landing astronauts on the moon and establishing a lunar base on the south pole by 2030.

The 8.2-metric-ton Chang'e-6 probe, a backup spacecraft from the successful Chang'e-5 mission in 2020, is set to lift off on a Long March 5 carrier rocket from the Wenchang Space Launch Center in Hainan province. After landing on the northeastern side of the South Pole-Aitken Basin, the oldest known impact crater in the solar system, the spacecraft will attempt to gather approximately 2 kilograms of lunar samples.

One of the most significant challenges facing the Chang'e-6 mission is the spacecraft's reliance on a recently deployed relay satellite to communicate with Earth during its 53-day journey. This includes the unprecedented task of ascending from the moon's far side, which permanently faces away from Earth and has no direct line of sight for communication.

Why this matters: The Chang'e-6 mission represents a critical milestone in China's lunar exploration program, which has made significant progress in narrowing the technological gap with the United States and Russia since the first Chang'e mission in 2007. The successful completion of this mission would not only provide valuable insights into the early evolution of the moon and the inner solar system but also establish the foundation for China's future crewed lunar missions and the establishment of a permanent lunar base.

The Chang'e-6 mission will carry payloads from several international partners, including France, Italy, Sweden, and Pakistan, highlighting China's commitment to international cooperation in lunar exploration. However, NASA is currently banned from collaborating with China due to U.S. law, raising concerns about potential competition for lunar resources, particularly water ice at the south pole, which has been described as the "golden belt" for long-term lunar missions.

The upcoming Chang'e-7 and Chang'e-8 missions, scheduled for 2026 and 2028 respectively, will further explore the lunar south pole and initiate the construction of a rudimentary outpost in collaboration with Russia. These missions, along with the Chang'e-6 expedition, form a critical part of China's Phase-4 lunar exploration program, which ultimately aims to land Chinese astronauts on the moon by 2030, potentially coinciding with NASA's Artemis program that plans to return U.S. astronauts to the lunar surface in 2026.

As the world eagerly awaits the launch of the Chang'e-6 mission, Wu Yanhua, deputy director of the China National Space Administration (CNSA), emphasized the importance of this endeavor, stating, "The Chang'e-6 mission will be a milestone event in the history of lunar exploration. It will greatly promote the development of lunar science and technology, and contribute to the peaceful exploration and utilization of space resources by hum

Key Takeaways

  • China to launch Chang'e-6 to collect lunar samples from far side.
  • Chang'e-6 mission a milestone in China's lunar exploration program.
  • Chang'e-6 to carry international payloads, but no NASA collaboration.
  • Future Chang'e-7 and Chang'e-8 missions to explore lunar south pole.
  • China aims to land astronauts on the moon by 2030, coinciding with Artemis.